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Ever heard PAS or the Government say “not reporting detecting finds is immoral?” How come? Well, Britain is special. It’s the country where theft of society’s knowledge of it’s past isn’t morally indefensible – even though it used to be. Back in 2001 PAS asserted “The Scheme believes that people have a moral obligation to their heritage.” Not now though. They won’t even say not reporting finds is irresponsible so there’s no chance of them saying it’s immoral!

Why the change? We think it dates from when it became evident that most detectorists take “voluntary” to mean “not necessary”. At that point, for the Scheme to assert reporting was necessary on moral grounds would be to point out a too-painful truth to their partners and indeed to their funders. Thus, “moral obligation” has been dropped. Oh to be a British artefact hunter, free of an obligation to the rest of society! Oh to be a taxpayer not having to fund a fiction!

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Bonkers Britain, unique in the world, has painted itself into a corner where theft of society's knowledge can't be described as immoral. Don't believe us? Write to PAS, or one of the FLOs or the Government. Ask them straight out: "do you think not reporting detecting finds is immoral?" If they don't say yes you'll know we're right.

Bonkers Britain, unique in the world, has painted itself into a corner where theft of society’s knowledge can’t be described as immoral.  (Don’t believe us? Write to PAS and ask them if it is!)

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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We continue our series looking at Dr Sandy Gerrard’s research into stone row monuments of the South West. This time the third of the three stone alignments at Drizzlecombe on Dartmoor is examined.

Driz1Map

On the lower slopes of a pronounced spur leading south west from Higher Hartor Tor is a remarkable prehistoric ritual complex including three stone alignments and at least 22 cairns. The rows are set close to each other and all of them have a cairn at the upper end. The terminal stones at the lower end of two alignments tower above the others which look tiny by comparison. In common with many rows the size of the stones varies considerably with many just protruding through the turf. All three terminal stones were re-erected by the Dartmoor Exploration Committee in 1893 following excavations to identify the sockets.  Several other stones within the rows had also fallen but these remain recumbent.

However you define special the Drizzlecombe area must surely rank amongst the best.  There is something for everyone. As well as the prehistoric ritual monuments there are several well preserved Bronze Age settlements and from later periods there are fields systems and tinworks. Whichever way you look there is archaeology starring back at you inviting exploration and discovery. There is plenty to keep you occupied, so much to see and ponder. It is therefore with some trepidation and at the risk of overload I am going to suggest that as well as looking at the archaeological around your feet that (weather permitting) you look towards the south west for views of the sea.  The location of Drizzlecombe means that these views are tightly focussed but as elsewhere they would seem to suggest deliberation. In common with several other sites the alignments sit within a valley location and are nearly surrounded by hills. It is as if the site has been chosen because of the particular views where the sea appears and disappears as you move around the area. This article will deal with the south eastern alignment which is described by Jeremy Butler as Row 3.

DrizPlan

Simplified plan showing the relative positions of the stone alignments at Drizzlecombe. Associated cairns are shown as circles. (Source: Google Earth and Butler, 1994,136).

Row 3

This stone alignment measures 149.5m long and includes a single line of at least 69 slabs. The length of this alignment is exactly the same as Row 1 which is unlikely to be a coincidence and will have been important to their builders. The cairn at the top of the row is only 20m away from the one at the top of Row 2 and the view towards the sea is therefore only very slightly different. The row is far from straight and has a number of subtle changes in alignment along its length. This point is worth stressing because there is a popular misconception that these rows are absolutely straight. The lack of alignment precision indicates that an absolutely straight line of stones was not a necessary requirement for the builders and users of these places. Indeed given how easy it would have been to create a perfectly straight line this could not have always been seen as important.

Driz3-1

The stone alignment is far from straight and curves towards the terminal pillar. The alignment in background is Row 2. View from south west.

Driz3-2

The sinuous character of this alignment is clear. Could it be that the stones were erected beside an existing path?  The plan form is very reminiscent of paths leading between two points. The stones may therefore be waymarking a ritual route which had already become important to the people who lived here in the Late Neolithic. View from the north east.

Views from the alignment

A series of images from Google Earth are presented below. The first one represents the view from the cairn at the top of the row, the second from the point mid-way along the length of the row and the third from the terminal pillar.

Driz3-3

The view from the top of the alignment is very similar to that from the cairn at the top of Row 2. Despite the close proximity of the two viewpoints it would seem that the western sea triangle might be entirely closed with the closure being provided by the Cornish coast leading south from St Austell. The precision of this visual inter-relationship is of considerable interest and potential significance and certainly merits further exploration.

Driz3-4

As one walks downhill along the alignment all three sea triangles shrink, being seemingly swallowed up by the land. The closed sea triangle on the west may have been of particular interest. If one accepts the hypothesis that prehistoric peoples had a particular interest in the boundary between land and water this phenomenon which we have seen at many sites provides a strong, albeit circumstantial, case that this interest may have influenced or indeed determined with a degree of precision the positioning of their alignments.

Driz3-5

At the point where the alignment ends the very last vestiges of the eastern sea triangle are visible. Effectively the terminal pillar denotes the point at which the sea views disappear. Again the precision of this relationship really does imply a strong correlation between the row and the sea.  The frequency of such precise relationships supports the idea that stone alignments were sited to acknowledge, denote and celebrate the  boundary between  the land, water and sky.

Driz3-6

The stone alignment leads away from the cairn in the foreground. View from north east.

Mapping the Sea Triangles

Driz3 Profile

The views from the top of the row are almost identical to those from row 2 and the same map is used to illustrate the arcs of visibility. The eastern arc also includes the Shaugh Moor alignment cairn as well as the sea. Each sea triangle would have been spectacularly illuminated in turn by the winter sun and may have added a temporal dimension to any ceremonies. The eastern arc should glisten for about 5 minutes at 3.25pm, the central arc for 20 minutes from 3.45pm and the western arc for about 30 minutes from around 4.15pm (all times are modern!).

Source

Butler, J., 1994, “Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities Volume Three – The South-West” 135-142.

The wealth of evidence keeps building! As ever, we are indebted to Dr Sandy Gerrard for his ongoing research on this story. Previous articles in this series:

Following the recent wide publicity we would like to make our position clear regarding solstice celebrations at Stonehenge:


 

We have no objections whatsoever to solstice celebrations at Stonehenge subject to the simple proviso that they don’t involve damage or disrespect to the monument by which we mean significant litter, urine, vomit, faeces or deliberate marks on the stones – or any climbing up or standing on them (both of which are not open for debate as they are illegal under the government regulations by which English Heritage is bound).

We feel those obvious parameters should have been imposed many years ago on a zero tolerance basis and we look forward to the speedy publication of measures to achieve them. We trust the reforms will be announced not debated and that they will be judged by results this summer and will be revised thereafter as necessary. To this end we call for the prompt publication of a full damage and disrespect status report for each year from 2000 to 2014 and for each year thereafter.

We suspect that most people will agree and we are heartened by this from the Free Stonehenge Facebook Group: “Just to reassure The Heritage Journal that there are in fact many Druids and Pagans in complete agreement with the Journal’s position and are steadfastly campaigning for something to be done ….” It is surely now time for English Heritage to listen to the majority of people for whom respect for the site is the priority.


Thanks to heritage law expert Peter Alexander-Fitzgerald for directing us to this document  suggesting we were right, the National Trust might be able to make its Stonehenge land “forever sacrosanct”. The National Trust Act 1907 says its holdings “can be declared inalienable which means they cannot be sold, mortgaged or even compulsorily purchased by the government (without a debate in Parliament).” Of course, whether it can is one thing but whether it wishes to is another. But we can all hope. Better a second, honourable u-turn than keeping to a decision that will surely echo down history to its discredit.

It’s true that the Trust and EH have just entered into “a Memorandum of Agreement concerning the management of the landscape in and around the Stones including the A344 and the former Visitor Centre site” but it’s in the nature of a memorandum of agreement that it can be cancelled. The Trust is not yet locked into support for a short tunnel. It could still join The Stonehenge Alliance and call for “no new damage at Stonehenge, forever, for everyone”.

BTW, did you know The Trust is advertising for a Business Development Manager for the Wiltshire Landscape portfolio of sites with a role to “drive the commercial and visitor offer”? That ‘offer’ would be vastly more lucrative if that pesky A303 is removed and the two halves of the Stonehenge WHS are conveniently linked together. If the Trust’s recent u-turn had regard to that it would be a scandal so let’s hope it wasn’t.

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Can we have our National Trust back please? If you’re opposed to what’s happening, please sign this petition (for those living in Britain) or this petition   (for people in the rest of the world including NT employees on holiday).


US antiquities dealers who have long called for an American PAS have got their wish in Staten Island where the Parks Authority issued 548 metal detecting permits on the understanding the detectorists will report any significant finds. Sounds good, and familiar. A voluntary social contract, just like in Britain. They get to detect. Society gets benefits. What’s not to like?

But blow me down with a bagel, look what happened: “All of the 185 permit holders who actually filed reports for 2013 wrote that they found diddly squat, records show. Five permit holders mentioned that they managed to locate some change by waving their wands and listening for beeps — but the coins weren’t worth anything.”

So the exercise was so dodgy it could have been Barry Island, not Staten Island – and the similarity with Britain doesn’t stop there for a spokesperson for the American PAS (if it existed) would surely have said: Yeah, of course we believe that all 185 (and the other 363 who didn’t file a report) found nothing, American detectorists are as honest as their British counterparts. The main thing achieved is we can now go to Government and explain they’re highly reliable and it’s worth funding us for the next 30 years to tell everyone so. Let’s dig America together, innit?”

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Time for an American Nose Hiding Scheme?

Time for an American Nose Hiding Scheme – or will US archaeologists heed the toe-curlingly embarrassing position Britain has put itself in?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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Having asked Cadw if they would keep us in touch with developments at Bancbryn there was no news. Instead the only snippets emanating from the organisation were a few tweets from a Cadw officer who had been copied into internal correspondence and who clearly despite having never visited the site felt confident enough to announce to the world:

The Mynydd Y Betws wind farm stone row fiasco – a field boundary not neolithic but hey what do I Know? dlvrit/17rD8J

and

Mynydd y Betws stone row is conveniently placed next to a sheep track—- Mhmm those sheep must like neolithic archaeology!

These comments provide a window into Cadw’s  “balanced” approach  to heritage protection whilst at the same time illustrating a total failure to understand basic fundamentals of field archaeology. Cadw now accept that there is no evidence to support the field boundary interpretation and even after all this time there is actually no evidence to support the position that the alignment is not Neolithic. These tweets clearly indicate that even before the assessment process had started that some sort of uninformed biased consensus had enveloped Cadw’s mind set. The second tweet provides the clearest indication that the officer concerned has no field experience or they would have known that most stone rows are “conveniently placed next to” sheep tracks. This is because sheep respect ancient features in the landscape whilst Cadw…

Ringmoor Down track

The Ringmoor Down stone row on Dartmoor is conveniently placed next to a sheep track—- Mhmm those sheep must like neolithic archaeology!

handsoff.

Spaceship Dawn, which is carrying the name of our member Handsoff Stonehenge is now approaching dwarf planet Ceres and will arrive tomorrow, March 6, 2015. At that point it will have travelled about 3 billion miles displaying the message that the universe needs to do right by the whole of Stonehenge not just a part of it.

If you agree that the proposed tunnel is too short and that removing a road from one part of the World Heritage Site while destroying another part is a betrayal of trust and unacceptable, please sign one of the petitions

this one for those who live in Britain

– or this one for those who live in the rest of the universe.

We have been sent this message from someone who has attended several Stonehenge solstice events in a professional capacity. They have supplied their name but have asked that we don’t divulge it.

While we’re happy to agree with King Arthur and others that it is not true pagans or Druids that misbehave at Solstice, the account does suggest there is  more than a small minority of other people, perhaps pagans-for-the-day or simply revellers,  who do so. In addition it highlights the issue of “insults” to the monument i.e. behaviour that may not cause permanent damage but nevertheless shouldn’t be tolerated by the rest of us – and particularly by true pagans and Druids. Is not the unwavering insistence on a “cram-in” ensuring that the monument is grossly disrespected every year and shouldn’t pagans and Druids, of all people, be leading calls for reform, not supporting an indefensible status quo?


I would like to add my thoughts to the debate about open access to the Stones at Solstice.I would prefer to be anonymous for professional reasons.
 
I have attended several of the summer Solstice events in a professional capacity as a senior officer in one of the statutory emergency services. I have witnessed first hand the heartbreak that the staff feel when they reclaim the area within the circle the morning after. I have seen guardians in tears at the insults wrought to the monument, the appalling stench, the rubbish, the vandalism, beer cans wedged into cracks in the stones, urine, vomit and faeces everywhere.
 
The majority seems to have little care for an ancient monument, and utterly disrespect it.
 
One member of staff (NT or EH, can’t remember), whilst starting to collect the detritus, in tears, muttered “364 days a year we protect and care for this place, 364 days a year, and then this happens in one night”. But they always manage to clear the rubbish up and get the site open again. The smell lingers, though, for days.

It seems that King Arthur Pendragon has “slammed” the Heritage Journal in the press (see here). Yet we’ve been very supportive of him over the years and have described him as “brave” here and “affable and amusing” here and “in his own way one of the sanest men in Britain” here.

But he has got it wrong in this case. He says “As for the Heritage Journal, calling for an end to managed open access, they’ve been doing that since they were formed in the first place.” Not so. What we’re against is damage and all we’ve ever wanted is an end to that by redesigning the event so it’s far less crowded and some proper protective control can be applied. Ten years of damage is witness to the fact we have a point and our pagan members all agree. If Arthur can stop the damage, fine, but if all he can do is tell the press “obviously we abhor the vandalism” then we’re entitled to propose measures that will end it.

There are a couple of additional points in support of our view. The latest research suggests the stones were designed to allow people to view the summer solstice sunset from outside the circle, not crowded inside it, so we’re surprised Arthur and others aren’t calling for the authentic re-enactment. It costs a couple of hundred thousand pounds to run the event in the current format and the attendees don’t pay a bean. So if most people stayed outside the circle they’d have a better view and a more authentic one and the rest of the population wouldn’t have to shell out ridiculous amounts of money to run the event. AND the damage would stop in a jiffy!

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See also The View of a Senior Officer

We continue our series looking at Dr Sandy Gerrard’s research into stone row monuments of the South West. This time the second of the three stone alignments at Drizzlecombe on Dartmoor is examined.

Driz2Map

On the lower slopes of a pronounced spur leading south west from Higher Hartor Tor is a remarkable prehistoric ritual complex including three stone alignments and at least 22 cairns. The rows are set close to each other and all of them have a cairn at the upper end. The terminal stones at the lower end of two alignments tower above the others which look tiny by comparison. In common with many rows the size of the stones varies considerably with many just protruding through the turf. All three terminal stones were re-erected by the Dartmoor Exploration Committee in 1893 following excavations to identify the sockets.  Several other stones within the rows had also fallen but these remain recumbent.

However you define special the Drizzlecombe area must surely rank amongst the best. There is something for everyone. As well as the prehistoric ritual monuments there are several well preserved Bronze Age settlements and from later periods there are field systems and tinworks. Whichever way you look there is archaeology starring back at you inviting exploration and discovery. There is plenty to keep you occupied, so much to see and ponder.  It is therefore with some trepidation and at the risk of overload I am going to suggest that as well as looking at the archaeological around your feet that (weather permitting) you look towards the south west for views of the sea. The location of Drizzlecombe means that these views are tightly focussed but as elsewhere they would seem to suggest deliberation. In common with several other sites the alignments sit within a valley location and are nearly surrounded by hills. It is as if the site has been chosen because of the particular views where the sea appears and disappears as you move around the area. This article will deal with the south eastern alignment which is described by Jeremy Butler as Row 2.

DrizPlan

Simplified plan showing the relative positions of the stone alignments at Drizzlecombe. Associated cairns are shown as circles. (Source: Google Earth and Butler, 1994,136).

Row 2

This stone alignment measures 83.2m long including at least 11 slabs. The cairn at the upper end is surrounded by a circle stones and at the lower end is a 4.2m high granite pillar. The amount of effort involved in erecting this stone suggests that it denotes a special place at the end of a significant linear feature. The placing of large stones at the end of alignments is a recognised feature of many rows, but is epitomised at Drizzlecombe where all three alignments terminals are denoted in this way. Another characteristic of stone alignments is the variable size of the stones used to form the row. This row includes stones of many different sizes.

Driz2-01

A mixture of tiny, small and large stones lead towards a particularly impressive terminal stone. The alignment in background is Row 1. View from north east.

Driz2-02

The alignment approaching the terminal pillar. The large mound in the background is the Giant’s Basin cairn. A ring of rushes around the foot of the cairn suggests the presence of a buried ditch. This is an unusual feature of Dartmoor cairns. It is perhaps worth emphasising that none of the rows at Drizzlecombe are aligned upon this most impressive of cairns and are instead intimately associated with smaller less dramatic examples. This is a phenomenon that has been noted at other places. View from north.

Views from the alignment

A series of images from Google Earth are presented below. The first one represents the view from the cairn at the top of the row, the second from the point mid-way along the length of the row and the third from the terminal pillar.

Driz2-03

The view from the top of the alignment provides views of three sea triangles. The triangle on the left would also be framed by the cairn at the top of the Shaugh Moor stone alignment.  The triangle on the right includes distant views to the Cornish coast.

Driz2-04

As one walks downhill along the alignment all three sea triangles shrink, being seemingly swallowed up by the land. If one accepts the hypothesis that prehistoric peoples had a particular interest in the boundary between land and water this phenomenon which we have seen at many sites provides a strong, albeit circumstantial, case that this interest may have influenced or indeed determined with a degree of precision the positioning of their alignments.

Driz2-05

At the point where the alignment stops the western triangle has disappeared and the remaining two are much smaller. The disappearance of the western sea triangle may correlate precisely with the end of the row, but unfortunately Google Earth is not detailed enough to provide this degree of resolution. If field observations can confirm that the third triangle disappears at this precise spot another powerful piece of evidence will have been obtained.

Driz2-06

The stone alignment approaching the terminal pillar. Could this pillar have provided further fine tuning for the special views towards the sea. Standing in one spot both sea triangles would be hidden and the slightest shift in position would reveal first one and then the other. This type of reveal seems to be a characteristic of the alignments and may have manifested itself in different ways. View from north.

Mapping the Sea Triangles

Driz2Prof

Three restricted views to the sea are visible from the cairn at the top of the alignment. The eastern one also includes the Shaugh Moor alignment cairn as well as the sea. Each sea triangle would have been spectacularly illuminated in turn by the winter sun and may have added a temporal dimension to any ceremonies. The eastern arc should glisten for about 5 minutes at 3.25pm, the central arc for 20 minutes from 3.45pm and the western arc for about 30 minutes from around 4.15pm (all times are modern!). So should you be lucky enough to be at Drizzlecombe on a fine day in the late afternoon in December or January have a look for yourself and let the Heritage Journal know what you saw.

Source

Butler, J., 1994, “Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities Volume Three – The South-West” 135-142.

As ever, we are indebted to Dr Sandy Gerrard for his ongoing research on this story. Previous articles in this series:

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